Skunks do not hibernate in California. However, during colder periods of the year, they will “den up” for periods of time. Skunks do not like to dig any more than absolutely necessary, so they prefer to den in abandoned burrows made by squirrels, foxes or coyotes. If dens are scarce, they will readily use brush piles, hollow logs, or culverts. In urban areas, they like to move in under decks, porches, or underneath buildings, especially if there is a crawl space. They are also attracted to residential areas because food and water are often readily available and easy to find. I am reminded that many dog and cat owners have “self-feeders” and water dishes on the back porch for the convenience of their pets. Such easy “drive-in” access is a prime attractant for skunks and provides better nutrition than they would ever find in the wild.
The females tend to be communal, so often several will den at the same site. When there is a disagreement in the group, a bit of “spraying” may occur.
In an urban or suburban area there is cause for concern because California skunks are primary carriers of rabies. Skunks also may carry leptospirosis, listeriosis, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, Q-fever, tularemia, and trypanosoma. Of all of these diseases, rabies is the main concern.
To reduce skunk problems, move all pet food indoors or at least close the food containers so there is no access at night. Next eliminate den sites. Destroy brush piles and piles of wood or trash that may provide shelter. Next check around your porch, deck or house. If you find entrance/exit sites (usually you will find evidence of digging or burrowing at these locations), begin restricting access. DO NOT plug all the holes at once. If you trap a skunk under your house, the smell will definitely get worse, and if the animal dies under your porch, etc., you may never get rid of the smell. Limit all access except one. On the single opening, install a one-way door, which allows animals to exit but not re-enter. Leave this door for one to two weeks. Then place a moveable cloth or paper obstruction under/in the one-way door. If the obstruction is not disturbed for one week, it is safe to plug/close this last entrance.